ExecutiveBiz recently had the pleasure of speaking with ex-Virginia Attorney General and current candidate for Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. In this ExecutiveBiz exclusive interview, McDonnell outlines his plans for ensuring Virginia’s energy independence and promoting the growth of Virginia’s small businesses, and highlights his political, military, and executive leadership experience.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to make Virginia a more business friendly state?
Bob McDonnell: I think it starts with making sure we keep taxes and regulation and litigation low, strong right to work laws and great universities. That’s the foundation of a business friendly environment. Secondly I think it takes a lot of leadership. I’ve got a Master’s degree in business. I’ve worked for a Fortune 500 company, American Hospital Supply. I’ve been a manager of a large state agency as Attorney General of Virginia and through that I’ve learned the importance of promoting small business entrepreneurship and bringing investment to Virginia. I’ve laid out a number of specific plans that all start with promoting small business. Virginia’s entrepreneurs generate about 75% of new jobs, so we’ve laid out a plan to cut down permitting time and planned great regulatory and tax incentives to help small businesses grow. Secondly we’ve outlined plans to bring more tourism and film production to Virginia with some new incentives. We also want to increase the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to create new tools to bring the larger corporations to Virginia, make us more competitive with our neighboring states and foreign countries. I’ve outlined a significant proposal to generate a comprehensive energy plan for Virginia using all of our resources, coal and natural gas and nuclear, offshore drilling, alternative energy which I think will make Virginia the energy capital of the East Coast. That’s what I’ve said that I think we can do. We want to promote the agriculture industry a lot more. It is still the largest industry in Virginia, nearly $80 billion. I want to find foreign markets. I want new trade offices in places like India and China to tap into new markets. There are a number of things that I would like to do but we need to find . . . particularly those new innovators, those entrepreneurs that are doing everything from bio-fuels to aquacultures, some of the emerging technology industries in Virginia and find ways to promote those industries even better.
“I’m a candidate that understands the military – I’m a retired Army officer. I’m a candidate who has managed a Fortune 500 company. I’m a candidate with statewide elected experience…I was just endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business for my long-standing support of small business, entrepreneurs and innovators, with a lifetime “A” rating.” — Bob McDonnell
ExecutiveBiz: Do you support efforts to make George Mason University a state supported, world class research institution?
Bob McDonnell: Absolutely. I’ve been there many times. I’ve talked to Dr. Martin on several occasions. I have been around the campus quite a bit and it has been an amazing success story over the forty years to go from a couple thousand students to over 30,000 students. The new Prince William campus is an outstanding resource and has the potential to do what Virginia Tech has done with their Corporate Research Center down in Blacksburg with 150 start up companies. There is a lot of intellectual horsepower at George Mason as well that can be transformed into great technology and biotech industry and I want to do everything we can to support that. There is just tremendous opportunity there in northern Virginia.
ExecutiveBiz: Virginia’s last Secretary of Technology, Aneesh Chopra is currently the Federal CTO. What qualities will you look for in the next Secretary of Technology?
Bob McDonnell: I want somebody who is a world-class innovator, who doesn’t get tied up with bureaucratic reasons why things can’t get done, somebody who understands small business development because that’s the way virtually all of those high tech companies in northern Virginia started and really began to grow. I want somebody who is going to be an aggressive marketer and promoter of Virginia’s high tech industry to find new markets around the country and around the world for our technology industry.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to secure Virginia’s IT infrastructure from cyber attacks?
Bob McDonnell: Well I’ve done some of that as Attorney General in order to find new laws against computer trespass and to cut down on all of the new 21st century criminals; sexual predators, identity thieves, phishers, farmers and hackers. We’ve passed a number of new laws over the last four or five years mostly at my request that really help to protect the industry. We’ve spent a lot of time creating a task force with some of the large IT companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, MySpace and AOL to look at ways to reduce the opportunity for both cyber crime and also for sexual predators to use the internet to harm young children. It’s vitally important to Virginia. We are the home of the internet in America and I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep the information revolution that’s really headquartered in Virginia – keep it strong.
ExecutiveBiz: The federal government has plans to insource government contracting jobs, moving them from Virginia to DC and elsewhere. How do you plan to protect these Virginia jobs?
Bob McDonnell: The federal government is doing a lot of things that I don’t think are good for Virginia, namely introducing bills like Card Check, Cap and Trade, healthcare reform and unfunded mandates on business. I think there are a lot of things that are destructive to the competitiveness of Virginia business that are coming out of Washington right now. Overall I think we have the first or second highest per-capita investment of federal government dollars in Virginia, in large part because of the defense industry. I think it really starts with tremendous political pressure or communication with our legislatures from Virginia in making sure that they are doing everything that they can in order to help Virginia stay strong and competitive and to keep these Virginia jobs here. Overall we’ve done pretty well in the defense department realignment and we’ve done a lot, I think, to make sure we protect Virginia businesses without being overly against free and fair trade internationally. The biggest thing is using the bully pulpit of the Governor’s office to fight to keep all of these Virginia jobs here.
ExecutiveBiz: Leaders of the government contracting community have criticized the federal government for “poaching” government contracting jobs. What do you think of the federal government taking high paying and high skilled jobs out of the private sector and moving them to Washington?
Bob McDonnell: It is my belief that for most proprietary or commercial functions, the private sector can do much better than the government at any level. This is because you’ve got the motive of profit, you’ve got private sector creativity, and you don’t have a lot of government regulations and bureaucracy that often hamstring the federal government. I think it really comes down to where can the service best be performed and where can it be performed that gives the best value and the lowest cost to the taxpayer. Sometimes there are reasons to do that for an interest of either national security or command and control that I think are understandable, but if you can get a better value at a lower cost in the private sector, I don’t think we ought to have the government competing with the private sector on things that are proprietary or commercial functions.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any plans for driving the adoption of green technology in Virginia?
Bob McDonnell: Absolutely. I’ve got a comprehensive energy plan that among other things calls for the implementation of offshore drilling. Virginia is supposed to be the first state in the nation to drill off of the Atlantic Seaboard in 2011. We have a lease prepared for approval by the federal government. Part of what I’ve done is to recommend that the proceeds of offshore drilling be sent 80% to transportation and the other 20% of that go to green energy research and tax credits for wind and solar and biomass. I want to be able to create the incentives for those industries to create commercially viable technology. Right now many of those technologies are not cost effective but I think that there is tremendous potential. I just visited one of the most unique bio-fuel generation facilities in the country down in Southside Virginia that’s got a patented distillation process to turn switch grass and hearty sugarcane into a bio-fuel that can be turned into gasoline at an incredibly low cost. That’s exactly the kind of industry we want to promote. It’s carbon neutral. It creates agricultural opportunities for Southside Virginia and it does a tremendous amount towards helping us more energy independent.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ll be speaking to the Potomac Officer’s Club on September 10th. What do you want to tell Virginia’s contracting community?
Bob McDonnell: I think I want them to know a couple of things; one is that they can count on me to be a business friendly Governor. I’m a candidate that first of all understands the military – I’m a retired Army officer. I’m a candidate who has managed a Fortune 500 company. I’m a candidate with statewide elected experience. I’ve been the Attorney General of Virginia for the last four years. On a broader level I think it is important for them to know that have a long record of being friendly to business. I was just endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business for my long standing support of small business and entrepreneurs and innovators, with a lifetime “A” rating. When it comes to business issues I’ve got a long-standing record of supporting business and will continue that as Governor. That’s important when it comes to this economy and these jobs. I think it is very important to have a Governor that understands that we need to promote free enterprise. We need to promote private-sector growth and we need to keep taxes, regulation and litigation to a minimum so that jobs can grow in Virginia.